The wetsuit is essential for many of these sports, but they are a faff to get on and off and can restrict movement. They're none too cheap either.
Chris Reed, a designer and surfer, has come up with an alternative aimed specifically at children. The "Chill Cheater" works along the same lines as a traditional wetsuit, but it's lighter, more flexible and it's easy to get on and off. It has been developed from a new material called Aqua-Therm, which looks like neoprene but is up to five times thinner. The result is that it provides insulation from wind and wet, and gives complete protection from UV rays. Any water that does get into the close-fitting top is trapped against the body. Body heat then warms this up to provide additional insulation.
"The great advantage of the Chill Cheater is that it allows children to play and compete in the water for long periods without feeling the cold and without suffering the restrictions of a regular wetsuit," explains Chris Reed.
"Even on the warmest day, windchill can be a serious problem if you're wet, but as the top is windproof, water-resistant and water-shedding, it reduces the effects significantly."
The Chill Cheater will be particularly useful for special needs groups, where children may be less mobile and feel the cold more quickly. The top will keep them warmer in the water - even in indoor pools - and allow them to benefit from longer sessions.
The top has been endorsed by the British Surf Life Saving Association whose beach lifeguards will be using it this summer. It has also been rigorously tested by members of the local lifeguard clubs in north Devon, where it has been adopted as standard kit.
Tops cost from around pound;18 for children to pound;40 for adults. They are made-to-measure and can be ordered with other accessories from Chris Reed at Original Reed Ltd, 52 South Street, Braunton, Devon EX33 2AN. Tel: 01271 816199; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org